Joel Reichenberger: Blown away by Moab |

Joel Reichenberger: Blown away by Moab

It’s 4 p.m. I thought I got my “Welcome to Moab” moment when I spent 25 miles around town driving 10 miles an hour under the speed limit.

I hate those people, but there was far too much to see and my need to gawk transformed me into an unapologetic hypocrite.

I was wrong, though. Instead, my moment came at 4:25 a.m. Saturday when I opened my eyes, one wall of my formerly trustworthy Coleman tent hanging about three inches from my face.

I’m from Kansas, where wild wind is annoying, persistent and a way of life. But I’ve never fought through as consistent a wind disaster as I found in Moab, where I traveled Friday to cover the 24 Hours of Moab mountain bike race.

The tent collapse caught me off guard, even though I knew it was possible. The wind picked up at about midnight and my tent shook and flapped but held together. Before long, I was able to sleep through each lashing. Until 4:25 a.m., that is.

The surprising part was the entire tent didn’t go, which really made the situation considerably worse. The windward wall had folded in on the rest of structure. I found out in the morning a supporting pole hadn’t actually broken. Two pieces had fallen apart. Everything else stood strong.

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What’s a guy to do? It was cold out. Really cold. I knew my chances of fixing anything were slim as long as it was dark. So I lied there, staring at my waffling ceiling for an entire hour.

Had the whole darn thing collapsed, I would have had two good options. I could have gone right back to sleep, confident things couldn’t get worse (unless, of course, the wind carried me and the tent away together.) Or, I could have immediately gotten up and gone to sleep in my driver’s seat.

The way it was proved to be the worst of both worlds. The wonderment of half the tent standing against the storm made it impossible to sleep, but the fact that half of it stood wasn’t bad enough to necessitate leaving.

I finally decided to abandon ship an hour later, pulling the stakes and committing to starting over at dawn.

I’m writing from my car to avoid the elements, but that seems to be of little help. There’s sand everywhere here – sand in my camera, so much sand in my hair I can barely run my fingers through it, and even sand in bags I hadn’t opened until recently.

I pieced the tent back together first thing in the morning, but I soon decided to remove the poles and let it lie flat, the canvas safely anchored to the ground.

When I’ll be able to inhabit it again, I have no idea. There’s word going around the wind might die later this evening.

All I know is as I write, we’re just four hours into the grueling 24 hours of Moab, and I can’t clench my teeth without hearing the crunch of that sweet desert sand.